On December 28, I spent a few glorious hours by myself, drawing in the Tucson Botanical Gardens, a beautiful, quiet oasis in the city. There’s an herb garden, a traditional Tohono O’odham Nation garden, a zen garden, a cactus garden, various contemplative gardens, a butterfly and orchid garden, and more.
The first drawing below is a mix of oil pastel, thick Pitt marker, and watercolour. The saguaro cacti appear to have formed an illegal assembly. Maybe they are plotting something? Or maybe it’s all completely innocuous, and they’re just exchanging ideas on how to attract more bees. But seriously, I have noticed how sculptural these cacti, as well as a lot of other Arizona plants, are. They don’t seem to be as lush, flowy and soft as the plants we have in BC.
This last drawing below is in oil pastel only. It was definitely inspired by Veronica Lawlor’s reportage drawing style (she teaches at the Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design in New York), and one of her former students, Dino Pai, who participates with me in the Vancouver Urban Sketchers, and is a professional storyboard artist. One day, I hope to meet Veronica and take some kind of a drawing lesson from her.
An arroyo near my inlaws’ house. Arroyos are channels for the flash floods that can happen during heavy rainfall. The water can’t seep into the bone dry ground, so it needs a place to run off. I am fascinated by these large structures, examples of urban industrial engineering with their own particular beauty. In this drawing, I captured two kids riding through the arroyo on skateboards, an illegal activity. Also, street people sleep and live under the bridges, which obviously increases their already-high vulnerability.
This one is worth seeing large, I promise! Click on the image to see it bigger on Flickr.
Also check out the sketch of a bigger arroyo I made back in June 2012. I had to do this one early in the morning before it got too hot:
A street person, who had probably been sleeping under the road-covered culvert I was standing on to draw this, walked into my picture. It gave me both a great way to show the size of this arroyo as well as serve as a reminder of the parallel life that goes on in cities. In Vancouver, the street people walk the alleys, here they walk the arroyos. The utilitarian tracts of the city become used and inhabited by those who are not part of mainstream society. These people live literally on the fringes. They don’t feel welcome on regular streets, sidewalks and neighbourhoods, so they escape to places of their own which were never designed to be inhabited.
I did quick drawings out the car window on the 1.5 drive to the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. My 9-year old niece drew in her sketchbook as well.
We took our lunch break near the river, and then the kids, their dad, and Jeff built a dam across the river with some impressively large logs, while I sketched. So we all got to play.
One of the great things about Christmas with my inlaws in Tucson is that it’s usually around 20˚C (70˚F) at that time of year, which is perfect for hiking. So on December 26, my brother-in-law and his three oldest kids, 14, 12, and 9, all great hikers already, took my husband and I to Aravaipa Canyon.
It’s a beautiful wilderness area which requires an advance permit to enter, and I believe they only allow up to 50 people a day. We had to wade through an ice-cold river for much of the hike because there wasn’t a continous path along it. But my brother-in-law had warned us that we would be hiking in wet socks and boots the whole time, and the warm air temperature made it tolerable. I felt like an explorer and I know the kids did as well.
We crossed through a deep canyon and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery in the bright Arizona sunshine.
We were hiking right in the stream. Here, one of my nephews demonstrates that the cold, shallow water is full of algae, meaning it probably has too many nutrients.
This Christmas holiday, I’ve been amusing myself by drawing quick portraits of family and friends, after Australian urban sketcher Evelyn Yee introduced me to the idea, and we gave it a test run at our Vancouver urban sketchers session at the 33 Acres Brewery. I am not showing them because I am proud of them — I am not, but it doesn’t really matter. I just like the idea of the quick portrait and am planning to get more practice. Maybe in a year I will be able to show more competent portraits. These are just a few examples; I managed to draw about 13 people. It’s addictive. Try it!
Also, I had way more fun than the
We visited my inlaws in Tucson over the holidays. Our nieces and nephews, as well as some of their parents, are a performing bunch. On our first day in town there were no less than three Christmas concerts to attend that involved several family members. I skipped the first concert of the day to sleep in, but it still felt like a busy day being out from 11 am to 8 pm to fit in meals and the other two concerts. It was all very impressive though.
It was too dark in the hall to draw during my youngest nephew’s choir performance with the Tucson Symphony, but his mom and older brother’s concert at the Antiochian Orthodox church they attend was in a well-lit, new building with vaulted ceilings, shown here. It was a choir concert of Christmas songs from a variety of cultures, performed in about ten different languages. I enjoyed it, even though I do not attend this kind of church nor subscribe to their belief system.
Jeff, my husband, sings as well, as a tenor in the Vancouver Bach Choir. It really hit home on this trip that he comes from a very musical family.